Wrestling superstar Dwayne Johnson and former New Kid on the Block Mark Wahlberg are facing a $200 million lawsuit over claims that they stole the idea for their hit comedy on HBO, Ballers.
News of the lawsuit was first announced by TMZ back in December 2015, when it was revealed that Everett Silas, best known for appearing in 1983 film My Brother’s Wedding, and Sherri Littleton had been developing a show called Off Season from 2007 until 2009 with Wahlberg and Johnson. The show was close to being put into production when the studio pulled the plug, allegedly because Silas and Littleton insisted on appearing in the credits as the creators of the show.
Off Season was a show about African-American footballers both on the pitch and in their personal lives, which was set in Miami. Sound familiar? That is because Ballers is a football drama centred around African Americans set in Miami. According to the plaintiffs, the similarities do not end there. In total, they have identified 27 different similarities, which they claim prove that Johnson and Wahlberg derived Ballers from Off Season.
Silas and Littleton even claim that the show’s name, Ballers, is derived from the title of one of the episodes that they had already completed for Off Season.
Now the claim has been escalated after a cash amount has been attached to the lawsuit: a massive $200 million. Dwayne Johnson and Mark Wahlberg are executive producers on Ballers along with HBO as defendants in the case. It is not known if the other executive producers on the show will also be included in the lawsuit. Executive producer Stephen Levinson is also credited with being the creator and lead writer on the hit sitcom. Levinson is a well-known producer, having also been an executive producer on Entourage and Boardwalk Empire, but he has limited previous writing credits.
Dwayne Johnson, known to WWE fans as The Rock, also stars in Ballers as a retired football star who is now a financial advisor. He knows Wahlberg from buddy film Pain & Gain, which the pair starred in together in 2012. Wahlberg was also an executive producer on Entourage with Levinson.
The trio have recently been celebrating after HBO confirmed that Ballers has been renewed for a second season, and it possible that the success of the comedy has played a part in the figure that the plaintiffs are asking for, delaying naming a figure until they were able to speculate on long-term financial losses that they may incur by not being named as creators on the show.
HBO have been quick to dismiss the claim as “frivolous,” making it clear that they believe any similarities between Off Season and Ballers is purely coincidental, with a spokesperson for HBO saying they “are sure the case has not merit.”
Dwayne Johnson has not been letting the lawsuit get him down. He has recently been filming for the movie remake of legendary television show Baywatch, and the New York Daily News reported he has taken time off-set to visit sick children at a hospital in Savannah, Georgia.
Johnson shared pictures of himself with children at the Memorial University Medical Center, where he also saw a teenager on the main wards after the teenagers mom found out that Dwayne was at the hospital. It isn’t the first time that Johnson has been in the news recently for making time for ill children; he invited 7-year-old Gabriel Singleton, who is currently fighting cancer, onto the set of Baywatch last week.
Johnson and Wahlberg are worth an estimated $232 million between them, so losing the lawsuit would prove a big blow to even their celebrity bank balances.
However, at present, it seems that Dwayne Johnson, Mark Wahlberg, and HBO are supremely confident of winning the case over Baller-gate.
[Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images]